Book Look: Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis

We have many fetish reference books in the store but the one I reach for first is “Zuni Fetishes and Carvings” by Kent McManis.

There is a first edition (left) and second edition (right)

The first 37 pages are devoted to “The Power of the Fetish” and discuss the symbolism and usage of the various fetishes. The section is organized by animals and human forms: owls, badgers, maidens to mention just a few.

Claudia Peina – Zuni
Warrior Maiden Carving

The next 34 pages discuss the various materials the Zuni artists use in carving and decorating their fetishes.

Emery Boone – Zuni
Horse Fetish Carving of Pipestone with inlay

The next few pages discuss the art of carving.

Antler carving of eagle taking rabbit

The next 55 pages are devoted to the Zuni carving families telling a brief history of the family. Each family section includes a detailed family tree. There are also examples of pieces made by various members of each family.

An ammonite bear by the Laiwakete family.

The book closes with a brief guide to collecting, indexes and so on.  See the slide show below of various buffalo fetish carvings.

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This is a valuable book for the Zuni fetish collector.

Paula

Sadly we lost our mentor and friend Kent McManis earlier this year. His passion lives on and he is held in high regard.

Mountain and Mesa Designs

This page from American Indian Design and Decoration by Le Roy H. Appleton shows some interesting design interpretations. Many of them relate to pottery, baskets, rugs and figures/statues. But we do see some carryover into Native American jewelry.

We often see the clouds, rain and lightning stamped on jewelry and inlaid into jewelry and fetishes.

The abstract step like designs are often called blanket patterns or mesas but here the steps are used as part of birds and exit trail of life.

Do you have any of these symbols on your jewelry?

design 001Following are :

BIRDS – Note they have similar types of heads but one bird’s body is comprised of steps.

CORN – A general design that could be used in weaving and beading.

EXIT TRAIL OF LIFE – Note that there is a break in the line above the design. This is the exit. Pottery and other handmade items are thought to be beings so it is with great respect that an exit is always left by the artist for the being. The line around a pot, for example, is never continuous.

CLOUD SERPENTS – Could these be Ancient Aliens?

birds

corn

exit

cloud serpents

cover 001

The Snake Symbol in Native American Culture

The snake in some Native American cultures represents speed and swiftness, the same properties as lightning or the lightning arrow and they often have a similar visual form. The snake does not symbolize anything negative or treacherous. Rather, the snake represents abundant rainfall, fertility and healing. Snake symbols are rarely seen in Navajo jewelry and art but are often used by Zuni.

We here in northern Colorado live with snakes on a seasonal basis – they are part of the landscape and ecosystem. Since our climate is semi-arid, we welcome the abundant rainfall the snake might bring.